Poland warns of tougher action against abortion protesters

WARSAW, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Polish police will take tougher measures if mass protests against a court ruling that further limits Poland’s highly restrictive abortion laws target churches again, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

Poland has been rocked by huge demonstrations, most of them peaceful, since its top court ruled last week that abortion due to foetal abnormalities was not permissible under the constitution. The decision leaves predominantly Catholic Poland with some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

In a rare display of anger against the Catholic Church, demonstrators in Warsaw, Poznan and Katowice disrupted church services, and in at least one incident defaced church buildings.

In the southern city of Katowice, a 7,000-strong crowd of mostly women gathered in front of the cathedral, chanting “this is war” and “human law, not ecclesiastical law”.

On Wednesday organisers called for a nationwide walk-out for women at work and some employers including schools announced a day off to allow people to join protests planned across Poland during the afternoon and evening.

“In light of plans being announced by organisers for further acts of aggression and profanation, the police will take decisive action. The goal of the police is to ensure public order and safety for all citizens,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was not clear which group or plans the ministry was referring to. A mass demonstration is planned in Warsaw on Friday.

The ruling means pregnancy terminations in Poland will only be legal in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s health, setting it far apart from the European mainstream on abortion.

Demonstrators accuse the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government of influencing the court. The PiS denies this but the ruling follows five years of PiS efforts to instill more conservative values in public life in close cooperation with the Catholic Church.

More than 70% of Poles say they oppose the ruling, according to survey published by the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Barber Kinga Rutkowska, who joined businesses across Poland in closing up shop on Wednesday, said women’s rights were more important to her than one day’s earnings.

“Our lockdown losses were very big. The state doesn’t do much to help us. Too bad - we will lose, but they will lose more,” Rutkowska,22, said.

Supporters of the government were eager for the decision to be implemented. An anti-abortion campaign group, Ordo Iuris, called for its inclusion in the official gazette so that it goes into effect.

“We believe that every day of delay is a day that we lose another child’s life because of suspected flaws or genetic diseases,” said director Karolina Pawlowska. (Reporting by Warsaw bureau, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)